The future of mobile: Smart watches and sweet smelling mobiles

Nov 22, 2013 by Adrian David Cheok
The future of mobile: Smart watches and sweet smelling mobiles

As the mobile phone industry undergoes sweeping changes, Professor Adrian Cheok, Professor of Pervasive Computing, discusses smart watches, haptics and mobile phones that send text messages and sweet fragrances.

Smart watches and wearable computing

Recently, we've seen wrist watch devices produced by the likes of Sony and Samsung. The concept is hardly new. If you look at science fiction on television from the 1950s through to the 1970s, there was always the 'watch communicator'. People have a desire for something wearable on the wrist. I think this form factor has been tried several times before but for the average consumer, it hasn't really taken off and I think even now, these devices are yet to become mainstream.

Compared with what you can do with a smartphone, the watch devices made by these are still much more inferior in their functionality. The real application is for the user to connect to their mobile phone. If you get a message on your phone or some kind of Twitter or Facebook alert, or instance, it shows up on your wrist. So right now these watches are really connections to your phone and calendar. Certainly, there is some value, but it isn't enough to justify one wearing a watch all of the time.

Mobile devices in the next five years

For several years I have been working on haptics - ways that people can produce touch through the internet. I have created hugging suits for parents and children, for instance, to embrace and hug each other at night time. What I want to do now is to try to make something that is small and very mobile with commercial applications. My haptic ring device, is another example. The basic idea is that we can now communicate through touch - physical touch rather than just text and audio visual means. Basically I can squeeze my ring and the person I am communicating with will also feel a squeeze on his finger. The other person's ring, who is another place, will see his ring light up and I will also feel a squeezed sensation in my finger. In this way we are bringing emotional and touch communication to .

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Touch, taste and smell are senses that are directly connected to parts of our brain controlling emotions and memory and we can therefore produce new forms of emotional communication through technology. We have had enquiries from major multinational finance and IT companies for business applications. Busy investment bankers monitoring the stock markets, for example, who don't always have time to look at their screens, can receive different kinds of signals - pressure and various kinds of vibration patterns based on stock prices. They can wear a ring like this for 24 hours a day and be constantly updated with stock prices. Many kinds of applications including communications, business and entertainment can potentially use this technology.

Smell, touch, taste and phones

Smell and taste are the least used senses for communication over the internet. We have made a device enabling the user to receive a text message and produce a scent; we want people to not only send a fragrance with text but to also convey an emotion. A sweet smell, for instance, would be a positive emotion, while a rotten egg would be for a negative emotion. It is a truism that smell directly affects one's moods at a subconscious level so this kind of technology is important for bringing emotional communication to the internet.

You can also imagine that this could also open up possibilities for advertising products. We have had an enquiry from a company that makes frozen food; we cannot smell frozen food but if you can have this kind of device when you pick up the frozen food, it can connect to your phone and release a smell which makes buying such food more attractive for customers. We are also working with Mugaritz, one of the most famous restaurants in Spain, to bring their Michelin starred dining to the public. The best way to do this is to convey visuals of the dishes via phone together with the flavours and aroma of the cuisine. Touch and taste is important for allowing people to have a direct experience of something. It is difficult to describe smell with photographs or text. This is why I believe the devices I am developing will bring new kinds of entertainment, advertising, and communication via the internet and .

Explore further: BlackBerry launches Classic in last-ditch effort

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Are smart watches the next big thing?

Jul 24, 2013

If you're like most Americans, you don't wear a wristwatch. But increasingly, electronics companies are betting you'll slap one on your wrist if it's more like a smartphone than a simple timepiece.

Review: Sony's smartwatch good, but not essential

Nov 14, 2013

Sony's new SmartWatch 2 doesn't get as much attention—and doesn't do as much—as Samsung's Galaxy Gear computerized wristwatch. But for the things it does, Sony's version performs better.

Android-powered watches get Internet savvy

Jan 12, 2012

The Internet was strapped to wrists at the Consumer Electronics Show on Wednesday in the form of Android-powered "smart watches" that serve up online content along with telling time.

Samsung seeks smart watch trademarks in US, SKorea

Aug 07, 2013

Samsung Electronics Co. has applied for U.S. and South Korean trademarks for a watch that connects to the Internet in the latest sign that consumer technology companies see wearable devices as the future ...

Recommended for you

BlackBerry launches Classic in last-ditch effort

13 hours ago

(AP)—BlackBerry is returning to its roots with a new phone that features a traditional keyboard at a time when rival Apple and Android phones—and most smartphone customers—have embraced touch screens.

Tag Heuer changes tune, now looking at smartwatches

Dec 16, 2014

Barely a few months after dismissing Apple's smartwatch, the new chief executive of luxury Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer conceded Tuesday that such a hi-tech gadget might after all have a place in his firm's ...

Runtastic turns to VR for optimal workouts

Dec 16, 2014

Some people avoid technology altogether when it comes time to switch off stress and turn on a feeling of health and well-being. They put on a pair of shoes and start walking. They get on a bike and start ...

Gift Guide: Five fitness trackers offer wide range

Dec 16, 2014

There are several fitness trackers to choose from, varying in what they measure and how easy they are to use. Here are five, ranked from budget to sophisticated, to give you a sense of the range available. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.